Let me start off the return of THE TAX PROFESSIONAL blog with an idea for a post-tax season promotional campaign that I had always wanted to undertake in the past, but never got around to it. At this point I will never get to try it, as I am no longer looking for new clients. I am actually attempting to “thin the herd” as I approach retirement after my 50th tax filing season.
This idea will take an initial investment of money and time, but has great potential and could turn into an annual event.
Pick a slow period when you have free time – like now - and take out ads in local papers and on local radio programs to announce a special offer. The ads will begin by asking taxpayers if they are confident that their past tax returns were prepared correctly, and that they paid the least amount of federal and state income tax or got the biggest federal and state refunds possible.
You then offer a special free service. During the chosen month taxpayers can bring their past three years’ federal and state tax returns to your office and you will review them for free. If the returns were prepared correctly and there is nothing you would change there is no charge. If you find an error, and can amend a return or returns to get a refund, you will prepare the amended return(s) at your normal fee schedule, or maybe a special reduced rate (perhaps 50% of your normal fee).
In the case of minor errors that would generate small refunds of perhaps $50 - $100, and your fee to amend might eat up most or all of the refund, amend anyway and either do not charge or charge a nominal amount not to exceed 50% of the refund.
My mentor and I discovered early on that the best way to get a new client for life, and a good source of future referrals, was to amend a past return, prepared by the taxpayer or someone else, to get a refund. Of course back in “the day” we had more tricks we could use, like Income Averaging and 10-Year Averaging, to get a potential new client a really big check.
Today the main target audience of such a campaign is the taxpayer with little or no knowledge of tax law and the Tax Code who “self-prepares” by using a “box” (tax preparation software). You want to emphasis the fact that no tax preparation software is a substitute for a competent and experienced tax professional.
And, what was always my favorite thing to do, you also want to take clients away from the fast food preparation chains.
If you find an error that caused the taxpayer to underpay their correct tax liability you would point it out and recommend that they amend, but charge nothing if they do not. Sometimes identifying a serious mistake and offering to fix it promptly before the IRS bills the taxpayer(s), to reduce potential penalty and interest, will also result in a new loyal client.
Have you ever tried something like this? How did it work out?
And those of you who decide to try this idea, please let us know the results.
If you have a practice tip you would like to share with fellow tax professionals you can submit it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.